Broward County

Parents of slain Parkland teens want to work with Runcie on School Board

Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty, parents of two students killed in the Parkland school shooting, are running for the Broward County School Board.

The pair appeared at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office Tuesday morning to file paperwork and announce their candidacy.

Alhadeff, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said she has two sons in the Broward school system. She said her eyes have become “wide open” to issues in the school system in the last three months and vowed to bring “more leadership, more transparency and more accountability to the Broward County school system.”

“I decided to roll up my sleeves and run for Broward School Board,” she said.

Petty, the father of 14-year-old Alaina, reiterated that safety was their top priority. But both parents stressed that they are not single-issue candidates, adding that their platform included transparency and accountability.

Petty said he was running “so I can represent parents from all over the district who deserve to have their children come home to them.”

Reforming the controversial discipline diversion program known as PROMISE is among their top priorities. Petty said he wanted to change the system “that would allow someone like Nikolas Cruz to fall through the cracks.” Cruz has confessed to the shootings.

Miami Herald news partner WLRN revealed that Cruz was referred to the PROMISE program, but after appearing at the intake process, he returned to his zoned middle school the following day.

During a recent School Board meeting, Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie defended the PROMISE program, calling it “synonymous with love, forgiveness, compassion and relationships that our youth need so desperately to be successful.”

He told board members that the district is taking a closer look at how schools address punishment amid criticism that PROMISE encouraged a culture of lax discipline throughout the district.

Although the parents said they would hold Runcie accountable and ask him “tough questions,” they weren’t calling for his resignation.

“This isn’t about replacing the superintendent,” Alhadeff said, adding that Runcie is a “good person” who has “implemented a lot of positive change.”

Petty and Alhadeff said their efforts to improve school safety began a day after the Valentine’s Day shooting, which left 17 students and educators dead and 17 others injured. They helped lobby for the passage of a far-reaching school-safety bill in Florida that gives police expanded authority to remove weapons from individuals who demonstrate an intent to hurt themselves or others.

Both parents said their mission of advocating for gun control will continue, but felt that running for the School Board is “where we can feel we can be the most effective,” Alhadeff said.

“I’m extremely frustrated with the lack of progress that has been made to fix the problems we all know exist,” she said.

They created a political action committee in May called Broward Parents for Better and Safer Schools, but it has not received any financial contributions.

Alhadeff, a former teacher, will run for District 4, which includes Parkland. The incumbent, Abby Freedman, has not filed to run for re-election.

“I think Abby has a big heart but I think we need change,” Alhadeff said.

Petty, an entrepreneur and appointed member of the state commission examining the missteps that led to the Parkland shooting, will run for District 8, an at-large seat. Incumbent Donna Korn has filed for re-election and has raised about $8,200. She also faces candidate Elijah Manley, who has raised $10,000 in his campaign for her seat.

The Herald has reached out to Freedman and Korn for comment. According to a statement from the Manley campaign, he will remain in the race "in the wake of high political polarization" and welcomes Petty and other candidates.

"Mr. Manley is looking forward to a prosperous and victorious election cycle, and wishes all the candidates the best," the statement said.